This Week in Mahler, Part II

      Photo Courtesy of Mathew Imaging

      If you thought last week at Walt Disney Concert Hall had a whole lot of Mahler, then get ready - this week will really knock you out. Gustavo and the LA Phil have progressed at a brisk but reasonable pace since launching The Mahler Project on JAN 13, but now that the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela has arrived and played not only THEIR first Mahler symphony with Gustavo but also the first of two performances of "Mahler's World" -- well, the only word we can think of to describe this week is "breakneck."

      Here's what's happening in The Mahler Project this week:

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      The Calm Before The Mahler Storm

      Growing up in central Oklahoma, there was a weather pattern we were used to in the same way residents of Southern California are used to the Santa Ana winds: springtime thunderstorms. As I understand it, they are the result of warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico colliding with cold, dry air from up in Canada and the northern plains. If conditions were just right and you were in just the right place, you could experience the sudden change from warm to cold and feel Mother Nature at work.

      I always enjoyed this rare treat, as the atmosphere was inevitably very calm and still, but in the distance you could see the clouds heading your way. As they grew closer, the energy of the storm began to fill the air with tension and excitement and there was a sense of nature charging itself up. Once the storm arrived, the cleansing rush of water was only interrupted by the thrilling flashes of lightning and percussive claps of thunder. Seen from a certain perspective, these storms were an exciting and beautiful display of nature.

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      Musical Bookends with Mahler 4 and Mahler 10

      When Gustavo Dudamel began his tenure as our Music Director, we played Mahler 1. It's already over two years later and here we have Mahler 1 again. But this time, especially after Thursday night's emotional performance, his interpretation has taken on a new glow and refinement. We've become his orchestra - with lightning-quick reflexes, sensitivity and virtuosity.

      Thursday's performance of Mahler 1 was spellbinding - especially with the powerful way it ended with the Adagio of the 10th symphony - musically "bookending" Mahler's extraordinary but brief life. The viola section was especially poignant with its utterances, I felt.

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      Worth a Thousand Words

      It's been a busy few days here at Walt Disney Concert Hall - the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela arrived from...well, Venezuela; the LA Phil and the SBSOV had their first combined rehearsal for Mahler 8; the Bolívars had their first rehearsal for the upcoming Toyota Symphonies for Youth program entitled "Mahler's World"; and Gustavo and the LA Phil had their first performance of Mahler 1 and the Adagio from Mahler 10 last night. Here's the LA Times' Mark Swed's review of the performance.

      Yes, you could say that there's a lot going on here. And, instead of telling you all about it (or at least any MORE about it), we thought we'd let the photos below do the talking. Enjoy!

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      My Introduction to Mahler

      LewisIn the summer of 1966 or 67 I was playing in the Idyllwild (CA) Festival Orchestra as concertmaster. I had been in student orchestras at the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts, or ISOMATA - now called Idyllwild Arts - every summer but one since 1959. This, however, was the first time playing with conductor Daniel Lewis, then on the faculty of Cal State Fullerton, now retired from many years conducting and teaching at U.S.C.

      Working with Lewis was wonderful - his conducting and musicianship were so much better than most conductors I had played with before and after that time - but what sticks in my mind and heart the most was my introduction to the musical world of Gustav Mahler.

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      Memories of Mahler 4

      MahlerMahler 4 was the first of his symphonies that I learned. An LA native, I was a senior in high school and a student member of the Pasadena Symphony. My mother was Concertmaster and the Conductor was the Pasadena Symphony's Music Director Richard Lert. I have memories of evening rehearsals - sitting in the back of the second violin section, watching Lert prepare the orchestra for performance and working hard to perfect my part. There was one passage in the Bass section in the third movement that Lert kept going over and over again, trying to get it to sound as he envisioned it. Somehow, the basses managed to get it right and we continued on.

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      Mahler’s Number One – And Some Unfinished Business

      The Hungarian Press wasn't too impressed with Mahler 1 when it premiered

      Weekend #2 of The Mahler Project begins tonight, but the program will always be #1 in our hearts - because, after all, it's Mahler 1, the first complete symphony the celebrated composer wrote.

      Being paired with Mahler 1 this weekend (except for Friday's performance) is the only existing portion of the unfinished Mahler 10, the Adagio. Combined, the two pieces present a vision of Mahler that is diametrically opposed - the young, nature-loving Mahler of the 1880s and the Mahler of 1910-11, dying of a heart ailment (and possibly a broken heart).

      Here's what you might not know about these two bookends to Mahler's career:

      Symphony No. 1:

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      This Week in Mahler

      Gustavo in rehearsal

      With the first weekend of The Mahler Project successfully under our belts and behind us, you probably think we're ready for a well-deserved break, right?

      Not on your life.

      As followers of the festival know, The Mahler Project is just getting started. In fact, after an amazing opening weekend featuring Mahler 4, "Songs of a Wayfarer" and a stirring Thomas Hampson rendition of Mahler's Rheinlegendchen for an encore on Sunday night, this week is even more jam-packed with Mahler-related goodness.

      Here's what's happening this week:

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      The Mahler Project: First Impressions

      If you know your Mahler, you know that the composer's Symphony No. 4 is considered to be his most whimsical and lighthearted. The LA Times' Mark Swed notes, in his review of Friday's night's concert, that Gustavo and the orchestra brought the necessary light touch to the work.

      Gustavo Dudamel
      Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

      He writes:

      Dudamel has begun his Mahler escapade light on his feet. It can’t remain like that, but it’s an appealing way to start out on an epic Romantic journey.

      You can read Swed's entire review of the opening salvo of The Mahler Project here.

      Who's ready for a Mahler marathon? This festival is just getting started!

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      What Might Have Been

      Some Mahler-loving YouTuber put this together and we felt like we just had to share.

      Sure, Maestro Bernstein deals with the distraction admirably here, but still, we ask that you silence all cell phones and pagers while enjoying ANY of Mahler's nine symphonies.

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